Diagnosis: bad PSU?

Situation: I couple of months ago, I experienced sudden crashing of Kohan: Ahriman's Gift, which had worked fine on my homebuilt rig (see below for specs). I've since tried everything I could think of: updated/rolled back drivers, upgrading WinXP Home -> WinXP Pro, playing w/System Config, sent in crash logs, dxinfo, system info to the publisher's tech support (they haven't come up with anything besides their usual troubleshooting boilerplate), etc.

I've had similar problems with the Asheron's Call 2 beta; more dramatically, I had the EXACT same problem with Age of Mythology, purchased just yesterday. Then it occurred to me that this problem was similar to a PSU problem I had a few years ago (I'm not THAT hardware-savvy, I'm afraid). So I browsed the forums, and think I might be on to something.

One piece of evidence: I was in a very cost-cutting frame of mind when I built this machine, so I'm pretty sure I would have skimped on the PSU (can't remember off hand what I spent or what I got).

My computer works fine for day-to-day stuff.

My questions:
- How confident can I be that this is a PSU problem? Has anyone ever had similar symptoms in similar situations?
- How can I test this? I believe I saw reference to a voltage testing utility: would this be able to confirm whether my PSU is damaged/inadequate?
- If it is the PSU, is it simply a matter of opening the box and replacing it, or are there other steps I should take?
- It looks like there's a pretty good consensus on recommended makes and models of PSUs. Nevertheless, would anyone care to make a recommendation?

My specs (might be off a bit, since I'm going from memory):
- Athlon 1800XP (w/a hefty fan, don't remember make/model)
- MSA nForce MB
- 256MB DDR
- 40GB HD 7200 RPM
- WinXP Pro
- GForce 4 MX440 (64MB)
- 300w PSU (I think I bought it separately from the case; likely a cheap model)
- No overclocking, default BIOS settings

Thanks in advance
4 answers Last reply
More about diagnosis
  1. I probably should have mentioned what the crash looks like:

    In the middle of a game, which will run fine up until the crash, the screen will suddenly go black with no sound, and the machine won't respond to anything (e.g., ctl-alt-del) besides a hard reboot.
  2. The easiest way to diagnose a weak/crappy/failing PSU is to install some Diagnostic software. I reccomend the freeware Motherboard Monitor 5.
    Install it, then monitor your system voltages while you go from idle to full load, Particularly the 5v line for AMD systems or the 12v line for Pentium4 systems.
    If you have a bad PSU the Voltages will be low, and dip even further when you load the system.
    Anything below 4.8v for the 5v line is gnerally bad. Large voltage fluctuations (greater than 0.05v) are also generally bad. Power should be good and stable.

    <b>LHGPooBaa + Evil Hamster Sidekick: Serving Toms Hardware community for 2 years as of the 11th of November</b>
  3. Thanks for the reply. I tried MM5 yesterday, and got these results, which look pretty normal, as far as I can tell:

    |Total number of readouts: 954 CPU Speed: 1104 MHz |
    |Running from: 11/10/2002 3:17:47 PM till: 11/10/2002 5:56:46 PM |
    |Sensor | Current | Low | High | Average |
    |Sensor 1 | 32° F | 32° F | 32° F | 32° F |
    |Sensor 2 | 32° F | 32° F | 32° F | 32° F |
    |Sensor 3 | 32° F | 32° F | 32° F | 32° F |
    |Core 0 | 1.76 V | 1.74 V | 1.78 V | 1.76 V |
    |Core 1 | 1.79 V | 1.78 V | 1.81 V | 1.79 V |
    |+3.3 | 3.30 V | 3.28 V | 3.31 V | 3.29 V |
    |+5.00 | 4.97 V | 4.95 V | 5.00 V | 4.97 V |
    |+12.00 | 12.10 V | 12.10 V | 12.22 V | 12.14 V |
    |-12.00 | -11.86 V | -11.94 V | -11.78 V | -11.84 V |
    |-5.00 | -4.94 V | -4.99 V | -4.89 V | -4.94 V |
    |Fan 1 | 0 RPM | 0 RPM | 0 RPM | 0 RPM |
    |Fan 2 | 0 RPM | 0 RPM | 0 RPM | 0 RPM |
    |Fan 3 | 0 RPM | 0 RPM | 0 RPM | 0 RPM |

    That was the last entry just before a Kohan session crashed. Now I'm not too sure how to read these data: assuming they don't indicate a problem, does that rule out the possibility that the PSU is bad? The other entries in the log file look similar; no spikes or troughs, as far as I can see.

    I also tried the memory tester utility (memtest86?), which turned up no errors.

    I'm at my wit's end with this: unable to play one of my favorite games, and hindered from playing one that looks awfully promising. Woe is me!

    Any other thoughts?
  4. Hmmmmmmm.
    Certainly doesn't look like the PSU is a problem.
    Voltages look good and reasonably stable. Just wondering a little about the vcore fluctuating from 1.74 to 1.78. A little more than what i expected, but its probably ok.

    It could be a game/video driver/Operating system error. Who knows... Remember, it IS windows...

    Try going into your bios, increasing your cpu voltage a little (will make it a bit warmer but nothing dangerous).
    Also make sure you have the latest chipset, sound and Video drivers (especially the video drivers). Consider doing a windows reinstall, or a game reinstall.

    <b>LHGPooBaa + Evil Hamster Sidekick: Serving Toms Hardware community for 2 years as of the 11th of November</b>
Ask a new question

Read More